E-mail Marketing: Recent Legal Developments in U.S. and Abroad

E-mail marketing remains a hot topic for both legislators and law enforcement officials. One recent development involved an update to an existing anti-spam law in Florida. The original law, which went into effect in July of 2004, established section 668.603 of the Florida Statutes, which prohibited sending unsolicited commercial e-mail to or from Florida using deceptive headers, sender names, or other deceptive elements. The new portion, which became law in Florida on July 1, 2006, strengthens the law by adding both misdemeanor and felony criminal penalties. According to new section 668.608 of the Florida Statutes, violating the law is a third-degree felony if:

  1. The volume of commercial electronic mail messages transmitted by the person exceeds 2,500 attempted recipients in any 24-hour period;
  2. The volume of commercial electronic mail messages transmitted by the person exceeds 25,000 attempted recipients in any 30-day period;
  3. The volume of commercial electronic mail messages transmitted by the person exceeds 250,000 attempted recipients in any 1-year period;
  4. The revenue generated from a specific commercial electronic mail message transmitted by the person exceeds $1,000;
  5. The total revenue generated from all commercial electronic mail messages transmitted by the person to any electronic mail message service provider, or its subscribers exceeds $50,000;
  6. The person knowingly hires, employs, uses, or permits any minor to assist in the transmission of a commercial electronic mail message in violation of s. 668.603 [the existing Florida anti-spam provision]; or
  7. The person commits a violation otherwise punishable under subsection (1) within a 5-year period after a previous conviction under this section.

Mobile devices offer additional opportunities for both legitimate and illegitimate marketers, and not just in the United States. According to a July 14, 2006 article from the Seoul-based Chosun Ilbo, the South Korean Information and Communications Ministry is about to implement anti-spam measures for mobile phone text messages. Elsewhere in Asia, Hong Kong is drafting its first anti-spam law, which promises serious punishment for spammers. This may be relevant not only for Hong Kong-based marketers, but even U.S. executives who travel to Hong Kong. According to the VNUnet article, the law "may also allow action against individuals who authorise [sic] spam campaigns if they are in Hong Kong at the time the spam is sent."

Because of the global reach of the Internet, it is crucial that marketers, especially those with international operations or whose employees travel abroad, follow not only U.S. legal developments but those around the world. Failing to do so can be both professionally and personally risky.

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